1. The absence of cocaine addiction in the indigenous Andeans consuming coca leaves is caused by both a peculiar pattern of coca chewing (for religious/ritualistic/recreational purposes, rather than for obtaining hallucinatory experiences) and with the chemically impure character of this consumption. While the Europeans managed to isolate pure cocaine out of coca leaves, the ancient Andeans used the leaves in their entirety, and as the latter contain less than 1% of cocaine in their natural form (Goldberg, 2006, p.220), it is no wonder that the cocaine impact has not been felt among these societies.
2. The process of cocaine production usually proceeds through two main stages: that of ‘snortable’ cocaine and of the ‘crack’ one. Raw coca leaves are made into coca paste, which cannot be snorted or injected but may be inhaled, and the latter is then subjected to the effect of hydrochloric acid, turning into powder (‘snortable’) cocaine upon its dissolution (Freye & Levy, 2009, p.25). As the latter is prone to decomposition at high temperatures, powder cocaine cannot be smoked. This leads to the necessity of having a process to make cocaine produce smokable, which is accomplished through treating powder cocaine with baking soda substance. The resulting escape of hydrochloric acid makes crack cocaine available for smokers.
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3. Among the three basic forms of cocaine use, coca leaves appear to be less harmful to their users in term of addiction potential and medical consequences, and the least capable of producing a “high”. As their cocaine content ranges from 0.1 to 0.8% (Freye & Levy, 2009), coca leaves are unlikely to be used by cocaine addicts, while their general medical effect seems to be reduced to the feeling of fatigue relief. They are generally used in the form of cigars or are brewed into tea.
The snortable (intranasal) cocaine is the chemically purest version of the drug, and as such has the highest exhilarating effect upon the addict’s brain. Its medical effects include the subject’s loss of sense of smell, nosebleed, swallowing problems, and hoarseness. In addition, other general symptoms of cocaine abuse apply.
The substance’s content in crack cocaine generally ranges within the margins of 75-90% (Freye & Levy, 2009). Crack cocaine addicts are subject to such adverse symptoms as loss of appetite, increased heart rate and blood pressure, tactile hallucinations, and depression, together with high drug craving; in addition, they are prone to such long-term effects as liver, kidney and lung damage, tooth decay, psychotic delirium, and spatial disorientation (“Effects of crack cocaine,” 2011).
4. The overall dynamics of cocaine consumption in the USA since the 1970s has been demonstrating a downward tendency, with cocaine consumption falling from its high levels of 7.1. million occasional users in 1985 to 2.6 million in 1998 (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 1998). Further decreases were registered in the early 2000s, with cocaine users’ numbers falling to 2.2. million persons as of 2003 (Goldberg, 2006, p.220). Recent estimates of the number of cocaine users in the USA put this figure around 1.4. to 1.9 million (in 2008; National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2010).
The following graph may be used to situate cocaine usage dynamics in comparison with those for other drugs:
5. The majority of cocaine production takes place on Andean plantations, with such countries as Bolivia, Columbia, and Peru being the most prominent centers thereof. The transfer to the USA is conducted in two stages: during the first, coca leaves are transported to the Central American or Caribbean processing facilities, and in the course of the second, the produced powder or crack cocaine is imported to the U.S. through illicit trafficking channels. The transfer of raw coca leaves is also possible, with processing being carried out in the U.S.-based laboratories. Likewise, some Colombian syndicates are known to produce powder or crack cocaine in-site.
The cocaine pricing is characterized by fluctuating price elasticities of demand, generally estimated to be within the range of -0.6 to -2.5 in 2001 (National Research Council, 2001). For instance, while in Colombia 1 kg of cocaine may be priced at $1,800, with coca paste being worth $900, in New York the same amount of cocaine would cost near $23,000 (“Wholesale cocaine prices, USA,” n.d.).
6. Cocaine addiction is produced when cocaine intakes block the dopamine reuptake in neural system (Campbell & Farrell, 2011). The accumulating dopamine permeates the neuron network, leading to greater stimulation signals in neural cells. As it binds to receptors, the respective areas of brain experience exhilaration from cocaine intake, making an individual addicted to the substance’s consumption.
7. The following withdrawal symptoms are associated with cocaine abuse: fatigue, irritability, agitation, disorientation, depression, acute nervous breakdown, intense drug craving. Unlike heroin or alcohol withdrawal, the cocaine one is not connected with visible physical symptoms, such as vomiting (Perez, 2011).
Long-term health problems associated with cocaine include blood vessels damage, severe weight loss, auditory hallucinations, tooth decay, chest pains, respiratory failure, and extremely high blood pressure (“Effects of crack cocaine,” 2011). All of these symptoms may be observed in complex or separately.
8. The cocaine trade is one of the most profitable components of drug trafficking, with profits measured in billions of U.S. dollars. Consequently, both street gangs selling crack cocaine and criminal syndicates (including terrorist organizations such as Colombia’s FARC) partake in this illicit trade. At the same time, cocaine addicts are likely to commit crimes themselves, which is motivated both by deviant behavior induced by cocaine usage and the financial need to pay for the drug. This leads to crime outbreaks being induced by cocaine merchandise.
9. The 1980s-1990s crack epidemic was correlated with substantial increases in violent crime caused by the growth in crack cocaine imports and consumption, particularly in the inner-city neighborhoods. In 1985-1994, homicide rates for African-American and Hispanic American males aged 17 to 24 more than doubled, reflecting the detrimental impact of crack cocaine trafficking on these communities (Levitt & Murphy, 2006). In New York City alone, the homicide rate peaked at 2,262 in 1990, declining to 767 in 1997 (Bowling, 1999, p.534).
10. The ‘de-cocainized’ coca leaves may be bought as the food ingredient at the certified food companies, such as Mysterious Coca (O’Neil, 2009). Such purchases are regulated by both U.S. Code of Federal Regulations’ Section 1308 (“Schedules of Controlled Substances”) and the United Nations 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs. The latter specifically mentions that “the Parties may permit the use of coca leaves for the preparation of a flavoring agent, which shall not contain any alkaloids” (United Nations, General Assembly, 1961, Art. 27-1). The Section 1308 regulations provide for the lifting of prohibition on coca leaves if the latter “do not contain cocaine or ecgonine” (21 C.F.R. §130812).
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